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EU: Defence Ministers’ Informal Meeting

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 11 March 2008

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I represented the UK at an informal meeting of the EU Defence Ministers held on 21 and 22 February 2008 in Brdo, Slovenia. It provided an important opportunity for discussions on EU operations, capabilities and co-operation between the EU, NATO and the UN.

Ministers underlined their support to the upcoming ESDP mission to Kosovo, including the importance of the EU delivering results on the ground and liaising closely with NATO and the UN. Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR), General Sir John McColl, briefed Ministers on Operation ALTHEA in Bosnia-Herzegovina, noting that the security situation remained good and that there was continued progress on implementing the remaining military tasks under the Dayton agreement. The EU Force (EUFOR) Chad Operational Commander, Lt General Pat Nash briefed Ministers on the security situation in Chad, noting that deployment of EUFOR had resumed following a temporary suspension due to rebel activity. Ministers discussed the continuing force generation for the mission and the need for the mission to remain impartial and co-operate closely with the UN.

Ministers also discussed the EU's military capabilities, including the use of EU battlegroups and the need to tackle capability gaps, in particular helicopters. I emphasised that addressing capability shortfalls required political will and effective investment from nations, and that the European Defence Agency had a role to play if it worked effectively with NATO.

In the final session, Ministers discussed EU-NATO and EU-UN co-operation, with particular focus on the importance of effective co-operation in Afghanistan where EU Police Mission (EUPOL) personnel were being deployed alongside NATO forces in provincial reconstruction teams. I emphasised that it was imperative to ensure clear understandings between the EU and NATO where they were operating alongside each other in operational theatres like Afghanistan.